12+ Eco-Friendly Pens
Updated: Dec 11, 2023
There is no denying that we all have lots of pens lying around in our house although we can never find one when we need one. There are so many pens sold each second that a couple of years ago, BIC, the pen company, celebrated its 100 billionths disposable ballpoint sale. This means they have been selling 57 pens every second on average since it was launched in 1950. Unfortunately, a large portion of these pens will end up in landfills where they will slowly break down into microplastics.
Even though we will write less due to the increasing popularity of our digital devices, pens will never truly die out. So, we need a more eco-friendly alternative to these disposable pens therefore I have made a list of 13 amazing eco-friendly pens.
Are conventional pens recyclable?
Conventional pens are not accepted by your recycling facility because they are all made differently and they are made of a combination of multiple types of plastic and metal. They also contain ink residues that make recycling even harder. However, this does not mean pens have to be discarded in the regular trash.
TerraCycle is a recycling company that helps you with hard-to-recycle items like pens. They help businesses, government entities, and regular people like you and me to keep trash out of landfills or from incineration. Through collaboration and innovation, they have developed the world's first solutions in everything from recycling to reuse. They have over 5,500 participating locations in the US, so there may likely be a drop-off point at your local Staples, public library, or school. However, if there is not, you could opt to purchase a zero-waste box from Terracycle. In this box, you can put all your pens and pen caps, mechanical and wooden pencils, markers and marker caps, permanent markers, and permanent marker caps for recycling. Once the box is full, you close it and ship it to them. The collected recyclables are separated either by machines or by hand. Metals are melted for recycling. Plastics undergo extrusion and are turned into pellets to be turned into new recycled plastic products closing the plastic loop.
Are pencils more sustainable compared to pens?
Just like pens, pencils are not all the same. Most pencils are made from basswood grown and harvested in China. These trees grow ever quickly, about two feet per year, reaching 20 to 30 feet tall within 20 years. Graphite used for pencils is also mined in China.
For the production of a pen, much more energy is required compared to the production of a pencil. This is because pens are made of plastic which is made from petroleum. Often also some metal is needed which also needs to be mined and melted into the pen increasing the energy requirement for pens.
However, a pen lasts much longer compared to a pencil. Even if you have sharpened your pencil to a nub. However, most pencils are also compostable but you need to remove any metal (that is used to hold the eraser) before doing so.
Overall, a pencil is more eco-friendly compared to the average disposable pen. However, there are many different types of pencils and many different types of pens. In both cases, choose an eco-friendly version like the one you can find below.
Are refillable pens eco-friendly?
This is a hard question as there are lots of aspects to take into consideration. Refillable pens aren’t as sustainable as pencils or fountain pens. However, when compared to a disposable plastic pen, a refillable pen is a more eco-friendly choice.
As refillable pens allow for the replacement of the inner ink cartridge by replacing the ballpoint tip as well when you’ve run out of ink. So, if you buy and use a refill, you’re only tossing about half the pen in the landfill (an empty refill). If you purchase a high-quality refillable pen, the outer portion could last you a very long time if the refills remain available during its lifespan.
Is the ink used in pens eco-friendly?
Back in the day, inks used to have petroleum-based solvents as the carrier, making up about 70% of the ink. These solvents are considered toxic to work with in manufacturing so companies are slowly steering away from these solvents. Recently, these toxic solvents have been replaced by soy or other plant-based carriers or even water. These newer carriers are much more sustainable and healthier for employees and our environment.
Refillable fountain pens
Lamy is a German-based company that specializes in gorgeous fountain pens. They take sustainability seriously as they make sure your pen last forever. To ensure you can use your pens as long as possible they make sure that all parts of their pens can be replaced when broken. These parts can often be purchased from specialized retail shops in larger cities. If you can’t repair your pen by yourself, their service center is there to help you fix the pen. Lamy's fountain pans are all refillable by either ink cartridges or by an old-fashioned glass jar.
ZenZoi’s Bamboo Fountain Pen is a great eco-friendly choice if you’d like to give a fountain pen a try. Most of the outer pen is made from bamboo which is known to grow extremely fast. The pen itself is packed in a beautiful bamboo box.
The pen includes a converter inside the pen so you can use it with bottled ink, or like a traditional fountain pen with cartridges. However, these cartridges must be purchased separately and are often made from plastic. This type of plastic is hard to recycle as it is contaminated with ink residues.
Diplomat Fountain Pens have been around the way for almost 100 years creating a true tradition of penmanship with every pen. They are so sure of their product that they give a 5-year warranty with the purchase of each pen. These pens are manufactured in Germany using traditional methods only. It is a favorite amount for many due to its smoothness and because it doesn’t skip. Even though this pen originally used disposable plastic cartridges, a converter can be used if you prefer to use this pen by refilling it with an inkwell.
When looking for a pen, the brand PILOT often pops up. Although they still make lots of disposable plastic pens, they are slowly making their business more sustainable by incorporating refillable pens into their collection. By now, 80% of the pens they produce are refillable. They offer several gorgeous options for eco-friendly pens that are all refillable, and retractable fountain pens. They come in a beautiful box with international cartridges but with a converter as well so you can also fill your fountain pen with bottled ink.
As cork is one of the most sustainable recourses available nowadays, they at Conscience Concepts decided to use it as a base for their pens. The unique combination of cork and wheat straw (the byproduct of harvesting wheat grains) in these pens results in pens that are also almost completely zero waste. Not only the pens are made from recycled materials also, but the box the pens are packed in is also made with eco-friendly cardboard, reducing their environmental impact even further.
The beautiful eco-friendly pens from agood company are from locally sourced natural meadow grass. These pens can even be refilled so you are sure your pen will last you for years to come. The ink they use is completely toxin-free with a very low impact on our planet. With every pen sold, Agood Company plants trees in Africa to mitigate carbon emissions from the production of their pens to make sure you truly have a green pen in hand.
The pens from Simply Genius are made from biodegradable paper and recyclable plastic. These eco-friendly pens have a strong barrel made of recycled cardboard. The tips and ends of these sustainable pens are made of safe ABS plastic (that is BPA-free) and wheat stalk. They are sold in bulk batches of 100 pieces making them a good choice if you use lots of pens. They write nice and smoothly, in black ink, so they'll be perfect for everyday use.
Eco pens use about 85% less plastic in their pens compared to traditional pens making these pens an amazing eco-friendly choice. These pens are made from recycled craft paper instead of plastic which is often used. The non-toxic ink comes in black and blue ink and is quick drying without smudging while the cartridge for the ink can be recycled after use.
The pens from Agile are completely plastic-free. A large part of these pens is compostable while the remaining parts are recyclable. The barrel of these pens is made from craft paper while the core is stainless steel. Even the packaging of the pens is eco-friendly reducing your carbon footprint even further.
Onyx & Green has lots of eco-friendly office supplies which include a few plastic-free pens. They have a bamboo option that is made with bamboo, natural rubber, and plastic made from corn. Their coffee beans pens are made from recycled coffee beans.
Onyx and Green utilizes only recycled, plant-based, renewable, and sustainably harvested materials for the production of their pens while their packaging is made from recycled materials while their labels are printed using low-impact plant-based ink.
Pens from recycled materials
More and more companies have become aware of our waste problem and have tried to improve their environmental efforts by making new pens from recycled materials.
B2P is an abbreviation for Bottle-2-Pen. They are manufactured in the US from recycled plastic bottles. The B2P gel ink pens are made from 89% recycled plastic bottles while the B2P ballpoint pens are made from 83% recycled plastic bottles. All of their pens write smoothly, have vibrant inks, and are refillable. Making it very easy to choose eco-friendly options, no matter which pen you prefer. They’re refillable so you can cut down on plastic waste even further.
Not only is plastic waste a big problem, but packages from cartons are also a big problem. Therefore, Onyx and Green made their gel pens from recycled milk cartons making them a great eco-friendly alternative to plastic pens. Also, the ink used in these pens is eco-friendly as they choose a soy-based solvent for their ink and the package of these pens is made from 100% recycled cardboard. Unfortunately, these pens are not refillable, but they are a great eco-friendly alternative to plastic disposable pens.
Even the big pen giant has realized that we have a plastic problem and they want to make their solution by creating pens that have been made with recycled plastic. These pens are made from 97% recycled plastic which means it’s taking waste out of the system and at the same time reducing the production of new plastic. They even claim that these pens last much longer compared to pens from their comparators. Even the paper boxes used to package these pens are made from 100% recycled materials. Even though these are much better compared to regular disposable pens, it remains a disposable pen and is therefore not the best eco-friendly alternative.
As mentioned before, pens never truly die out but with these eco friendly pen options you can make sure that you office is a little bit greener.